Chapter 106: Meat on the Chopping block
The strategy room was located inside the large castle wall. This room was the supposed meeting place.
At the meeting was Matia, the leader of the Heraldic Order, her aide Largud Ann, and some important officials of the religion. After them stood Caria and Filaret, and for some unknown reason, I took the last seat.
The meeting was to discuss the information brought by a messenger from Ghazalia.
「…What’s wrong, Lugis. Do you want to say something with that face? You know, you’re having a very strange expression on your face.」
Yes, an ear-piercing voice echoed in the room chamber.
No wonder, really. Rather, I was not the only one with that kind of expression. Most of the people here had distorted facial expressions. In fact, just a few people looked calm.
Seated next to Matia was the unmistakable ally of Heraldic religion, who now governed Ghazalia. Fin Eldith. She was the Elf Princess who was imprisoned in her own land of Ghazalia. Well, she was no longer a princess. She was now a queen.
It seemed that the messenger was actually her. Of course, it would be more troublesome to send a normal messenger from Ghazalia all over here. It was an important meeting with leaders; therefore, a normal messenger would not be the ideal person to take part in these important negotiations. Besides, there was some distance from Ghazalia to Garoua Maria. Still, was it possible for Eldith to easily invoke her illusion so far away from home?
「It is important to refer here that we allies had already decided to have this meeting with the leaders of each powerhouse. As it is often the case, messengers are used to relay information to each country. But, it is a hassle to use messengers over and over again. It is also time consuming.」
These words were spoken at the main table. I noticed that Caria seemed very uninterested in this meeting. She kept sighing and dithering her body.
Anyway, those words made sense to me. A meeting between two great powers. Of course, a mere messenger could not take part on such crucial matters.
Moreover, each time, the messenger had to go back to the country, receive instructions, and go back to another country again, which was truly a hassle.
However, when it came to the words of kings, it was not possible to communicate by magic. That’s why most countries used messengers to rely important messages. Moreover, it was dangerous for leaders or kings to travel to other places just to attend meetings. Things could go wrong in so many levels. It was a dangerous option.
Therefore, the upper classes used messengers to aid their needs. They often used a ritual to make a messenger kneel and swear before they served the upper class. A wax seal was often used to make a contract with said messenger. This occurrence was a deep system found in the upper class families.
「Even in my homeland, we sent out messengers to protect each other’s dignity. It’s a method that protects each family. I don’t find it a hassle or wasteful thing to use messengers at all.」
Filaret put her hand on my right shoulder and spoke as if she were frustrated.
Well, like Caria, Filaret belonged to an upper class family. It was not strange for her to be somewhat frustrated with this exchange of words. For me, all this talk sounded foreign. It didn’t resonate with me and my upbringing. Therefore, I didn’t care at all.
「Thank you for coming. Fin Eldith. I am glad that you are able to attend in person.」
Matia said these words by giving thanks in a reverent manner. Her posture was quite different from usual, and it seemed that her tone changed as well.
Somehow, the people attending this meeting seemed to harden their expressions and postures as well. I wondered if it was okay for a person like me to attend this meeting even though I was given the last seat. The back of my chest grew upset.
Eldith, who received an appreciation from Matia, smiled with her soft lips. She also expressed her thanks.
「Saint Matia. We, Ghazalia, will never forget our friendship with the Heraldic Order. I swore to join forces with you…But, let’s cut to the chase here. There’s no need to be so polite.」
I could feel the tension in the room slowly growing due to Eldith’s sarcastic cheerfulness, which in fact, was not disrespectful. Apparently, Ann and the officials of the Heraldic Order were more nervous than we were. Unsurprising, because, after all, most of these people were seeing an elf for the first time.
Anyway, if this was a meeting, then just start the damn meeting.
Why was I here in the first place? I didn’t spoke anything so far. If they wanted to discuss strategies, then I was limited in what I could say. Rather, I wondered if there was anything I could do at all.
I involuntarily rounded my eyes as I put my elbows on the table. I did not know how, but when I looked forward, my eyes met with Eldith’s eyes.
Immediately, her blue eyes distorted in a subtle manner.
「What are you doing there? C’mon, come over here.」
Huh. What did she say?
Eldith’s sudden words made every face at the table look at me. I felt nervous rather than embarrassed. Everyone had confusing expressions on their faces. Of course, the same happened with me too.
However, the blue eyes penetrated my confusing eyes even more. Every gaze at the table looked at me with piercing eyes. It felt quite daunting. Among them, were Matia, Caria and Filaret, who also stared at me with intense eyes.
「…Lugis, you’re my knight, you know. In that case, there’s no need to refrain yourself just because your lady has come. Right now, I am trying to get rid of my dissatisfaction, and forgive you for wanting your freedom.」
Eldith’s words were like a shock to everyone around the table.
On this moment, I felt that the air intensified.
I noticed that Caria’s arms were firm like stones. Her whole body became petrified. Filaret squeezed her hands, and her shoulders quivered a little. It looked like they were in pain. They were probably on verge of breaking down.
I felt uncomfortable and moved my gaze away. But, after a short moment, I looked into my surroundings again. My eyebrows bounced involuntarily.
Caria had a big smile on her face, but her cheeks trembled a little. So, she forced herself to smile. Given her personality, it was quite strange she didn’t take any action right now.
On the other hand, when it came to Filaret, a transparent liquid floated at the edge of her black eyes. Those were probably tears. Even her shoulders squeezed tightly.
Every eye or gaze existing in the room fixated on me. For some reason, even Saint Matia strengthened her gaze, as if someone was looking down on her. Perhaps, she misunderstood this situation.
For a few seconds, the suffocating air continued, and I felt as if stones were crushing me. After a little hesitation, I finally opened my hardened lips.
「No, well…Actually, you see. That is…」
「…“That is” what? Hey you, is that the only thing that came to your mind, ah?」
The moment my lips opened, I was forced to close them again.
Caria opened her eyes with a big smile and grabbed the edge of my words. Indeed, her smile was not a genuine smile. Behind that smile was a vicious intention.
I looked back at Eldith. I wanted her to change her words or withdraw them to help me in this horrible situation. One word from her and it would have settled everything.
When our eyes met, Eldith moved her long eyelashes lightly and smiled at me with an innocent face. She behaved as if nothing special had happened.
She actually didn’t say any word nor did she withdrew her previous statement. She remained silent after declaring me as her personal knight. How could I defend myself in this horrible situation? My words would just make everything worse.
The heavy air made me feel even more pressured. What the hell was going on here?
If I thought deeply about it, this was probably the first time that Caria, Filaret and Eldith, most of the members of the former Salvation Party, had come together in one place.
However. When I was traveling back then, I had never seen or felt such a heavy pressure. So strong that could hold people down.
Or perhaps I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Rather, I felt ostracized and under constant persecution. Heavy pressure was probably my daytime meal every single day. Maybe I got used to it back then? So used to it that I didn’t know any different? However, it was obvious back then since the members of the Hero’s party were against me.
But, what was going on with the current situation? Why was this happening now when the same thing happened before?
Was it because I was the one here, and not Helot Stanley?
Was that the only reason? I wondered if I were doing something wrong. Right now, my anguish turned into saliva and flew into my throat. My throat whined.
「…Eh, excuse me. I…I apologize for interrupting. But, time is running, so why don’t we move on to the agenda for the time being?」
The fierce eyes that were directed toward me turned to the personal aid, Largud Ann. I noticed that Ann’s shoulders moved up and down, and her eyes rounded slightly.
A moment of silence. I felt as if the minds of the attendees were full of overlapping thoughts, as if their minds were running around in the air.
「…I agree. Fin Eldith. Shall we proceed?」
It sounded as if Matia forcibly twisted the back of her throat to be able to talk. Eldith lifted one eye and nodded at the words. With Matia’s words and Eldith’s consent, the surrounding air gradually relaxed. Of course, the tension didn’t disappear completely. What lingered now was a strange sensation.
On the other hand, the pressure on my left arm and right shoulder did not relax at all. Rather, I felt the increasing pressure, and it tightened me up because of the strong gazes coming from both Caria and Filaret.
Bad. This situation was very bad. I couldn’t even leave this place. I never wanted to take part in a heated meeting such as this one. And now I couldn’t even dare to look at their vicious eyes.
「Well then. Let’s begin. We are pleased the alliance between the elf nation, the Hanging Gardens of Ghazalia, and the Heraldic Order has been successfully formed. For this reason…the guidelines of our alliance should be set in order. I will announce the proposal of the details concerning the first agenda.」
Ann’s words echoed in the meeting room to repel the ongoing pressure, as I tried conceal the body tremors that unsettled my heart.
Quite the atmosphere you created there Lugis. You truly were a meat on the chopping block…
Thank you to the Patrons for the continued support!